I’ve been looking forward to this episode for quite a while. As a tertiary character, I really like Ruby/Red and was hoping that they’d explore her storyline in a bit more detail. So this episode picks up from where her personal plot left off in Season 1, with Red coming to terms with her wolf-self and rationalizing that down with the woman she’s trying to be. In essence, the theme of this episode is duality; how we all have aspects of dark and light inside us and how sometimes, we wrestle with what is the truest nature of our identity because it doesn’t fit in with what society (or those closest to us) tell us is acceptable.
The main plot of the episode concerns Ruby/Red’s progress, both in Storybrooke and in the flashbacks of Fairy Tale Land. Whilst trying to prepare for the first full moon since the curse broke, Ruby expresses her fears that, as it’s been 28 years since she’s controlled her wolf-self, her skills might be a more than a little rusty. It’s the reason she turns down Billy’s offer of a date wherein he confesses that he used to be a mouse called Gus, living in Cinderella’s pantry. Aww. We all remember him, right? RIGHT?
Unfortunately, Billy won’t get to go on a date with ANYONE as he’s later found torn in half (in half, yes, that’s right) down by the docks. But more on that later.
There’s a general feeling of celebration going on at Granny’s because the dwarves have found diamonds in the mines, which can be refined into fairydust. And as David, in the Sheriff’s car, goes hurtling through Storybrooke to investigate said diamonds, I have to question his parenting choices as he appears to have Henry with him. I’m just saying. Taking a child down what might be an unsafe mine isn’t exactly winning him Grandfather of the Year awards, okay?
While at Granny’s, David is accosted by Mr. Spenser, aka King George. I love me some Alan Dale so I’m actually squeeing in delight, but the two of them aren’t exchanging pleasantries. King George is a little more than pissy at the fact that David appears to have been elevated above his station – not only in Fairy Tale Land, but also in Storybrooke. “You’re still a shepherd pretending to be a prince.”
Now, I have to confess to having mixed feelings about David. You see, I always thought Charming had a pretty pure heart and was one of those guys you could rely on and root for. And in some ways, he still is. But after his “we are both” speech, he seems to have turned into something of a righteous douche. I can understand feeling furious about what’s happened to him, but in terms of the way that good and evil is represented on this show, there’s a certain smugness to him that I’m really starting to dislike. “Must be hard for you,” he says to King George, “watching good win.” Yeah, and guess what, David? It’s also hard for me watching you rub it in like you’ve actually DONE anything to engender good winning in the first place!
Ugh. This show. It gives me far too many feelings. Not all of them good ones.
My favorite moment of the episode has Granny welding the door on the freezer in the diner. It’s not only a Flashdance moment (and who doesn’t like those, right? What a feeling!) but also indicative of just how badass Granny is. In fact, scratch that favorite moment of the episode thing – EVERY moment with Granny in it is my favorite.
She and Ruby are making preparations for the full moon – as Ruby says, it’s been 28 years. She’s obviously afraid of herself, and this is consolidated by the fact that, the following morning, Granny comes to the diner to see claw marks all over the wall, the door off its hinges and Ruby nowhere to be found.
The parallel stories in the episode run concurrently in Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land. And, in both worlds, Red/Ruby displays an unswerving belief that she’s a monster. “Why are you being so kind to me? You saw what I did as a wolf. What I am.”
Even in Storybrooke, with Belle, Ruby STILL believes that she’s a monster who could kill someone. And that’s the word she uses to describe herself to Belle, too. I love Meghan Ory here – in both guises she hits the right notes of being scared of herself, and scared for other people. And there’s an innocence to her, too; a prevalent naivete that is at odds with both the sexually aggressive Ruby that we first met in Storybrooke, and the incarnation of a ferocious wolf. It’s a lovely contrast that works really well and honestly, Ruby/Red is one of the “good” characters who appears to possess the most compassion for other human beings in this show.
Both in Fairy Tale Land and in Storybrooke, Ruby/Red is constantly told who she is by a range of different people. Snow tells her “I know that’s not who you really are” when Red suggests they split up as they run from Regina’s guards.
“I know who you really are, Ruby,” David tells her. And he says that he won’t make the same mistake of not believing in someone again, like he didn’t believe in Snow when she needed him to. Yeah, okay, David. That’s all well and good when it’s someone you LIKE, isn’t it? But what about believing in someone who maybe NEEDS you to, or having the wherewithal to see who someone REALLY is despite what their words and actions are telling you? You see, I’m all for believing in someone’s truest nature, but this show paints its heroes in such broad strokes of “good” that they become somewhat self-defeating. Being good is one thing, but losing your compassion for others is something else, and although David is trying to be supportive here, let’s not forget how he lauded it over King George just a few scenes before. I’m not entirely sure that the depiction of “good” in this show is actually…well, “good”. Because these days, I’m starting to find it more than a little annoying and full of its own self-importance. I know that the show wants to rework fairytales, but I still want my heroes to be…well, heroic. Not smug.
Of course, that could perhaps just be because I’m evil through and through. Or something.
Anyway, back to Ruby. She wakes up in the woods just outside Storybrooke and later discovers Billy’s body with David and Granny. She’s convinced that she’s done it on a bloodthirsty rampage: “It was the wolf! It was me!”.
In Fairy Tale Land, Ruby, having convinced Snow to continue their journey separately for the duration of the full moon, wakes alone in the woods only to have her hood stolen by a mystery man who’s been following her. Chasing him down, she finds out that he’s Quinn, another wolf. Ruby realizes that she’s not alone and that she’s not – as she previously thought – an anomaly or a monster or the evil thing she suspected.
Quinn takes her to meet his pack, all holed up in the remains of a great castle. “We are all the same” he tells Red, before introducing her to their leader, Anita. Aside from my initial flailing that it’s good to see Annabeth Gish do ANYTHING these days, I can’t help silently congratulating the show on its wonderful casting. They have a knack for matching up the ‘look’ of characters and seeing Meghan Ory and Annabeth Gish together, I can truly believe that they might just be related. Because the twist of this whole thing is that Anita is Red’s mother – the woman whom Granny told Red had been killed by hunters.
Anita says that Granny stole Red away from her when she was a baby because she wanted to shield her from the truth and make her believe that the wolf is something to be ashamed of. “Humans want us to believe that we’re the monsters – the moment when you believe them? That’s when you become one.”
There’s a whole undercurrent here that’s throwing allegorical anvils all over the place. Anita talks about suppressing the wolf and not being able to control it. She encourages Red to “embrace” her true nature. I can’t help feeling like this whole “wolf” thing has turned into something else…or maybe that’s just me. Either way, Anita’s like a walking, talking advert for the wolfish chapter of PFlag.
Anita encourages Red to run with the wolves that night – “like nothing you’ve ever experienced before…your mind won’t want to believe it…” But there’s a sense of freedom in acceptance and giving in to the immutable truth of Red’s true identity and that’s another big theme in this show, isn’t it? The true nature of one’s personality or character; how it is sometimes at odds with the public persona we portray to others and how we seek to suppress it in order to fit in with societal norms. I wish the show would explore this a little more, however, and in a less obvious way than through Red. It’s easy to look at identity when someone quite literally changes who and what they are. But the positive outcome is that Red finally accepts the wolf self, and isn’t afraid anymore, thus engendering a sense of control over it.
Back in Storybrooke, David locks Ruby up in one of the cells at the Sheriff’s office for the night, only to have Spenser barge his way in and cast aspersions on Ruby’s innocence with regards to Billy’s death. He wants justice and, even though David is pretty sure that he’s got Storybrooke on HIS side (arrogance much, Charming?), Spenser tells him that “this town is bigger than you think.”
Wait. Didn’t Regina say that to Emma WAY back in Season 1? I know this show has a penchant for recycling lines but…come on. If you say it twice, then it has to mean something, right?
Anyway, whipping up a bit of mob mentality, Spenser/King George attempts to take Ruby and apply some “justice”, but David sensibly moves her to the library where Belle awaits with chains.
Yep. Belle and Ruby have some chains. I’m just going to leave THAT image there…
But the interplay between them is actually quite sweet. I’m not a massive fan of Belle or Emilie de Ravin but the friendship she’s forged with Ruby is pretty cute. “No matter what you might have done in your past, David sees the good in you and that tells me one thing…that it’s in there. So if we can all see it, why can’t you?”
She also tells Ruby that she’s a bit of an expert in “rehabilitation”. Except she’s not, really, because Gold is STILL up to his old tricks and STILL unwilling to change for the sake of their relationship and STILL not prepared to give up his magic. So…yeah. Not so much of an expert and more of a victim, I’d say. But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, Belle.
But Ruby is adamant that she needs to atone for killing Billy and puts the chains around Belle’s wrists instead of her own, making her way out across town to put herself at the dubious mercy of Spenser and his mob.
In Fairy Tale Land, Snow, followed by Regina’s guards, stumbles upon the wolf pack’s lair. She tries to get Red to go with her but, on finding out that Anita is Red’s mother, relents a little. “I would do anything to be with my mother again” she tells Red. But when one of the queen’s guards kills Quinn and Anita demands recompense, there’s a fight where Red defends Snow and Anita is impaled on an iron spike.
Funny, isn’t it, how everyone who comes into contact with Snow loses their mother, one way or another? It’s like that girl is the kiss of death (quite literally) for anyone hoping to have a mother in their life. Regina, Charming, Red…nobody’s mother is safe when Snow’s around. And it’s odd that it should become something of a theme associated with her, as the LACK of a mother in her life is what started this whole thing. But it’s weird and uncomfortable and I KNOW that we’re supposed to see Snow as the innocent victim but honestly, I just can’t. Because when Anita tells Red that “you chose her” (meaning Snow), Red says “I chose me”. But…yeah, not really. Once again, the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for SNOW’S sake are almost too much to bear. Certainly too much to ever repay.
In Storybrooke, Ruby’s words to Anita – “I’m not a killer” – seem far, far away as she’s cornered in wolf form by the mob. They even have flaming torches! Oh, I love this. Because in a town where electricity is available, who in frilly heck carries a FLAMING TORCH? And there’s a woman down the front who has a PITCHFORK in her hands. See, that’s a job I’d love. Put it on your resume. I played “Woman With Pitchfork in Once Upon A Time”. Awesome. Seriously, show, stop it. This is too much.
It looks like Spenser/King George is going to shoot Ruby-in-wolf-form but Granny (and honestly, has a more badass grandmother existed ANYWHERE in any world, ever?) shoots the gun from his hand with an arrow. She and David have discovered evidence to suggest that Spenser set this whole thing up in the first place, which means that it wasn’t ever about Ruby to begin with. It was about Charming. Damn. You know, I’m starting to be just a little bit resentful of the things that other people have to endure for Charming and Snow. I know they’re the romantic, true love couple and all, but I’m starting to find them a bit irritating. They’re so RIGHTEOUS. And all the good stuff that happens to them generally comes from OTHER people, not their own actions. Eh.
Anyway, it’s Charming who saves the day (of COURSE it is; he’s the hero, blah) by approaching Ruby-in-wolf-form. “Ruby, I know you. The real you. And I know you can control the wolf.” Yes, there’s a whole bunch of KNOWING happening in this episode. But it just doesn’t sit right with me. I love the notion that Ruby can come to terms with parts of herself that she’s afraid of, and I love the idea that it’s only through the belief of others that she’s able to do so, but the fact that it’s because of Charming, who, quite frankly, is a self-righteous ass at the moment, really bothers me.
But of course, things turn out right in the end. Charming throws the red cloak over Ruby and she turns back into herself. “You saved me!” she gushes to Charming. “You saved yourself” he tells her. “By remembering who you really are.” They chase Spenser/King George only to find that he’s burned Jefferson’s hat – the only possible way of reaching Snow and Emma. Charming flies into a rage and is ready to kill Spenser but Ruby stops him. Which is ironic really, considering that out of them all, SHE’S the one who has enough common sense to exercise self-control. Oh, show. I love it when you ram a point home like that. She tells David that she KNOWS him so she KNOWS that he’ll find another way to bring Snow and Emma home. See? All this knowing. Pity nobody ACTUALLY knows how to bring them back…
As they bury Anita in Fairy Tale Land, Snow and Red stand near a headstone that bears a symbol I assume connects to the wolf pack. It looks like a sliver of moon with something else on it. If someone can explain it to me, I’d be ever so grateful because it DOES appear again in the episode, but more about that in a bit.
“I know what it’s like to lose your family” Snow tells Red. Please. Because it’s all about YOU, isn’t it, Snow? And hey, why don’t you mention that cabin in the woods again, hm? Because you’ve only gone on about it EVERY time you’ve seen Red. I think Snow has a secret cabin obsession that has hitherto been unrevealed…
“I didn’t lose my family,” Red says. “I protected it. You were the only person who thought it was okay for me to be both.” Oh yeah, that’s our Snow: so open-minded that her brain might just fall out.
Okay – back to the symbol on Anita’s headstone. We see it again in this episode, during one of two scenes that move the main plot on a little. Henry’s having nightmares and, after waking from one of them, he finds Regina by his bedside instead of David. It appears that Regina’s good enough to be a babysitter but not to CONTINUE parenting the child she’s ACTUALLY raised, cared for and looked after for ten years…
Ugh. Don’t even get me started on the dubious notions this show has about parenthood. I can’t get into that today.
Anyway, Regina spots that Henry has a burn on his arm and asks Gold to take a look at it. He explains that it’s a side-effect of the sleeping curse that Regina cast. “You know, it’s remarkable that you’d cast a curse you know so little about.” Aw, Rumple, always one to kick a Regina when she’s already down. Lovely.
“My victims were never supposed to wake up, so I certainly never cared what happened to them after. Until now,” Regina says. And I like that it’s only really through Henry that she can comprehend the gravity of what she’s done to others. It’s almost as if he contextualizes things for her, which is possibly the only way she can come to terms with what she’s done, or even begin to feel remorse for it.
Gold explains that Henry’s soul was trapped in a nether world, somewhere between life and death. When he’s sleeping, his soul sometimes returns there. It’s a real experience, but confined within the realms of sleep. He cooks up a potion for Henry that he pours into a pendant that will help Henry control his actions the next time he’s in the burning room. And the pendant has THAT symbol on it – the exact same one that was on Anita’s headstone. I would like someone to give me a solid explanation of this, please. Any and all theories accepted.
“Once one controls something, one no longer need fear it.” I can’t help but feel that Gold is directing these words towards Regina rather than Henry, because if we’ve learned anything about our Evil Queen, it’s that pretty much EVERYTHING she’s done has been controlled by Gold somewhere along the line, right? And it’s almost a threat, too, from Gold. Or maybe a reminder that he’s in control. Either way, Gold offers the pendant to Henry for FREE. And yeah, we know don’t we, that EVERYTHING comes at a price with him. So I have to exercise some caution in believing that Gold helps Henry out of the goodness of his own heart. Mostly because I’m not even sure he has one. Or, if he does, it’s like Montgomery Burns’ wizened little black pea of a heart, barely beating somewhere inside his chest…
The final scene of the episode is the only one that takes place in present-day Fairy Tale Land. Aurora wakes from a nightmare, where she’s been in the same burning room as Henry. She tells Emma and Snow that she saw a little boy there and that he told her his name was Henry. Oooh.
Notable Mentions: I have to admit to a bit of dwarf-love. I have a teeny tiny thing for Happy, mostly because Michael Coleman has such an adorable smile. And when Grumpy tells him that “just because it’s happy hour at Granny’s you don’t actually have to be there”, I admit to stifling a giggle. Bless them.
Granny’s confession that she has wolf hearing and that “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you run a hotel”. Of course, now I want “The Granny Diaries”, where she tells Storybrooke’s secrets from what she’s overheard at the hotel. Because I seem to remember it being where Regina and Graham had their little tryst that time…right? Enquiring minds want to know, Granny! Also, perverse ones. And we’ll leave that there.